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UFC 23 was the second UFC event to take place in Tokyo, Japan, where the newly formed PRIDE Fighting Championships were enjoying massive success. UFC 23 was headlined by a Heavyweight Championship Title bout between Kevin Randleman and Pete Williams, held to determine the champion after Bas Rutten's retirement.
The event also featured a four man "Japanese" tournament, held to crown the first ever UFC Japan Champion. The tournament was the first in the UFC since UFC 17, and the last ever tournament held by the UFC. SEG originally intended UFC Japan to be a separate company, run by local promoters, but due to mounting financial problems, a lack of cooperation from Japanese promoters, and the rise of the popular PRIDE and K-1 organizations, the idea was scrapped following UFC 25: Ultimate Japan 3.
UFC 23 was the first UFC event to not see a home video release, as SEG was nearing bankruptcy and struggling to keep the UFC alive through extremely limited pay per view in the US, as well as minor coverage in Brazil and Japan. UFC 23 has now been released as part of a DVD collection (UFC 21–30). It was also the first to feature James Werme who handled backstage interviews.
Bas Rutten announced on UFC 23 that he dropped his heavyweight championship title so he could drop down to middleweight to bring Frank Shamrock out of retirement to fight for the middleweight championship.
- UFC Japan Middleweight Tournament Semifinals: Katsuhisa Fujii vs. Masutatsu Yano
- Fuji wins by TKO (referee stoppage due to strikes) at 3:14 of the second round.
- Yamamoto wins by unanimous decision at 15:00.
- Jackson wins by KO at 3:12 of the third round.
- Slick wins by TKO (verbal submission due to knee injury) at 1:28 of the first round.
- Yamamoto wins the UFC Japan Middleweight Tournament by submission (kneebar) at 4:15 of the second round.
- Rizzo wins by TKO (referee stoppage due to strikes) at 1:17 of the third round.
- Randleman wins by unanimous decision at 5:00 of the fifth round to claim the vacant UFC Heavyweight title.
UFC Japan Tournament
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